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The Peach Keeper: A Novel

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An immensely satisfying read. This is a story about friendship and reclaiming one's life. The main characters are 4 high school classmates reconnecting at 30 in the small town where they grew up. The story is built around a secret held by their grandmothers that is uncovered when a peach tree is removed from a property that Paxton is restoring to it's majesty. It was the ancestral home of Willa's family, lost when her grandmother was a teenager and left to decay. There are light touches of magical realism and the hint of ghostly presence. The focus is on Paxton and Willa, hesitantly befriending each other as they uncover a crucial event in their grandmothers' past and join forces to protect them. Their grandmothers formed a women's society and as Paxton plans the gala to celebrate its 75th anniversary, she learns through unfolding events that the group has lost its way - its central purpose transformed from helping one another to 'one-upping' each other. Misperceptions abound about who each of the four was in high school and who they are now. Sebastian was an outsider, now the town dentist, Paxton's best friend whom she secretly loves. Colin, Paxton's twin, returns home reluctantly to help his sister with the gala celebration; he's been running away from home and family expectations. Willa, the legendary jokester in high school, has returned to live a quiet, somber life as recompense for her past and is stunned to discover how others really perceived her antics. Paxton outwardly perfect and in control, frantically making lists of her secret hopes and unrealized dreams. There's resoultion at the close of the story and a sense of the characters' moving forward with their lives and new discoveries. A chapter near the end reveals (to the reader) what really happened on one fateful night that bound their grandmothers together in a lifelong friendship. Willa and Paxton are now bound together through them.
An Available Man

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This is the first book I've read by this author and I like the way she writes. It's a story about a man who is recently widowed and the matchmaking efforts of his friends and family while he grieves the loss of his wife, e.g., social invitations that include a blind date, a personal ad placed by his stepchildren, random phone calls from women. One woman calls it 'dating after death'. The characters are likeable and believable as is his close relationship with his stepfamily. The main character, Edward, is a science teacher and a birder hence the bird on the cover. There are parts of this books that are laugh-out-loud funny and others poignantly sad. The book starts in the present and then goes back to Edward's bachelor days, meeting his wife, their marriage and her death. Early chapters about his marriage and especially his spouse's dying dragged. I wanted to move past that which may be the feeling the author was trying to convey. While it gave you a sense of Edward and Bea, fewer chapters could have been spent on the past. One experience from Edward's bachelor days becomes significant in the story when the woman who literally left him at the altar answers the personal ad and reappears in his life. My mixed feelings about this book stem from that relationship. I didn't like Laurel, their relationship seemed discordant with Edward's character and the author spent at least 1/4 of the book renewing their relationship and resolving (kind of) this past betrayal. More scenes where Edward is meeting and dating different women would have been more interesting and consistent with 'dating after death'.The story is well-written and the secondary characters - his stepfamily, colleagues, friends and the dogwalker/fortune teller - are well developed. I liked it, but it could have been better.I received a free ARC of this book from Library Thing Early Reviewers.
Next to Love: A Novel

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The story follows three women friends from teenage years through young adulthood and marriage. The aftermath of their husband's service during WWII on their lives, how choices unfold ove the years is set against the backdrop of the war years and the societal changes that followed in its wake. The casual prejudice is striking viewed from this vantage point - American is less overt in its prejudice now.
A Good American

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Engaging multi-generational story starting with the German immigrants to America. Grandson tells the family story. So many times it is spur of the moment decisions or mere happenstance that changes the direction of characters' lives. In the midst of the political debate over immigration, this tale is an excellent reminder that America is a nation of immigrants.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

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This book doesn't quite live up to hype. The story is told by multiple narrators connected to Hattie by blood - her children, her sister, her grandchild. We seldom hear Hattie's voice and can only guess at her motives. The author shows us Hattie's impact on the lives of those around her, principally her children. What I didn't get was a cohesive view of Hattie - just glimpses of her hopes and dreams, her disappointments, her strength, her love. The story begins with an experience that changes her, affects her deeply and focuses her will for her children to survive. Surviving isn't the same as thriving. What a price some of them pay to survive.
Brooklyn

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Journey to America from Ireland for Eilis. Story unfolds as she makes her way in a city of immigrants. Fascinating insight into immigrant communities within NYC. Eilis gains confidence as she makes her way, meets people from diverse backgrounds mostly at the department store where she works, successfully completes training as a bookkeeper and develops a romantic relationship. When she returns to Ireland for a visit, she is seen differently by the villagers and treated with respect and interest by those who had ignored her. In the end, Eilis must decide whether to return to the life she is building in America or settle into the old routine where other people ran her life. Maybe because of high expectations after reading the reviews, I was a little disappointed by this book. I wanted more depth and/or character development.
Summer in the South

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Ava (nee Summer) accepts the invitation of a friend from college to spend the summer with his family writing her first novel. A fish out of water element with Ava trying to figure out Southern ways. Intrigued by Will's family history, she probes family secrets and her novel becomes a thinly veiled tale of a past scandal and murder. In a second storyline, Ava begins to uncover her own personal history after the sudden death of her mother. The Woodburn family story is largely resolved. The second thread, Ava's personal story, is never connected or resolved, just dropped. In that respect, the story feels incomplete. It's a good summer read, but it could have been better. Really like the twist at the end when what really happened to Charlie is revealed to the reader, but still speculation for the main characters
Duplicate Death

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Excellent mystery. The group of suspects seems small since the murder takes place at a bridge party and only a handful of people are absent from play during the critical time frame. But nothing is as simple or straightforward as it seems. Good dialogue and descriptions that are hilariously droll. This book is delightful.
Coming Up for Air

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This is a story about choices, discovery and saving your own life. Her mother's sudden death sends Ellie on a journey to uncover a pivotal period in her mother's life and to reexamine her own. At age nine, Ellie re-wrote Cinderella - tired of waiting for her prince to come, she saves herself. Years later she finds her mother saved the drawing in her journal & rediscovers the story. It leads to a re-examining of her own life choices and how she wants to live the rest of her life. The author lets the story unfold without resorting to easy answers. A good read.
The Wildwater Walking Club

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This was a mildly diverting read. Story is about 3 women who start walking together. It's told from the point of view of one of them so you never really know what's going on in the lives of the other two. Seemed formulaic. The political issue they decide to confront is the town's clothesline ban. Noreen, the narrator, took a severance package when the sneaker company she works for was bought out. She's at loose ends with 18 months of salary and a house. Really couldn't relate to her 'problems'. Of course by the last chapter, she's figured it all out, launched a new business and started a romance with a 'nice guy'. It's a featherweight book, light and fluffy. The cover art is colorful but unrelated to the story. Should be 3 pairs of sneakers and in a field of lavendar
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